“Moon shadow foot” and “lizard leg”

Yesterday I was re-reading the founders book that was written as a technical guide. I haven’t actually had this book in my possession for many years as it was on loan.

Anyway I was just thinking about 2003. This should have been a pivotal year for many in Yuishinkai as it was the year sensei introduced “moon shadow foot” and “lizard leg”, very profoundly deep concepts from ancient Japanese kenjutsu.

As with most great teachers, a brief and simple explanation of these movements was provided. For myself at the time, I was lucky to spend considerable time as senseis uke for these explanations, as the concepts had come about as a result of him meeting me the year before.

One concept in particular nagged at my subconscious. I had heard the term before suigetsu- the shadow of the moon on the water. Sensei said this was a major concept in shinkage-Ryu Japanese kenjutsu.

The founder of Aikido puts great emphasis on this concept in his written discourse regarding yokomen attacks in the introduction of his book. He talks about it in regards to ken-po (the first or ultimate teaching of the sword). I had forgotten this reference as it had been such a long time since I had underlined it in my book.

I remember when it happened. After this seminar I spent a year trying to learn as much as I could about this “moon shadow” concept. I bought every book on shinkage-Ryu I could find. The best one though was not the highly recommended translation by Thomas Cleary (which wasn’t recommended until 2014, and remained unread by other very very senior Yuishinkai “masters” until after this recommendation – WTF……..) – but rather one by Hiroaki Sato, I have had this paperback lesser known volume silence 2003, it’s pages turning a slight brown colour now.

In it, not only is the book of family values( this is the shinkage-Ryu family written technical book) explained by just one of the three great masters of the family(muneyoshi, munenori, hidetsuna) but all of them. They give their own personal experiences unravelling these concepts in actual practical settings. I found Yagyu Jubei’s explanations to be especially helpful.

Internalising these concepts through changing your physical training as well as your philosophical viewpoint will alter your perceptions of Aikido irreversibly.

There are 2 main parts to this but also many other concepts that are co-related to them.

I remember the 2004 seminar when sensei spoke of the concept of “soft eyes”, of looking but not seeing. He explained how Japanese “No” actors utilised soft eyes and a trained “sixth sense” awareness to move about the stage whilst in full costume and mask. I remember spending entire sessions with eyes half closed trying to walk forward and backward around the dojo.

Why? Did it relate to the concepts taught(but very obviously ignored) the year before? How does how we “see” relate to suigetsu? What does the shadow of the moon and the feet have to do with how we use the eyes?

I heard that it was professed recently by a former student that sensei didn’t start teaching important internal “aiki” concepts until after he reunited with Okajima sensei and had his Daito Ryu connections. What was actually being stated was that being spoon fed concepts by a teacher rather than doing self investigation was more prevalent after years of frustration on senseis side at the fact his senior instructors weren’t doing the work he expected after he introduced Okajima, than before this time.

But I digress, where were we …the concept of the moon shadow. The place where the mind resides, and the importance of leaving this place undisturbed in motion.

First BS concept that had to be destroyed – physically leading “ki” by having uke chase your hand around the orbit of your body like a dog chasing a piece of string.

If the mind of the attacker resides in the hand of the attacker(that’s where the intent lies ie, if I want to grab you my mind is in the hand that would grab) and this place MUST remain undisturbed, I cannot move in the old way. Nor can I think in this way. If I have INTENT TO LEAD and the attacker has INTENT to attack, surely this is aiuchi(mutual death). If his mind is full, and it’s physical realisation is in the hand in motion, I must do my utmost in my motion to keep the mind trapped at this very point/line of intention(line of intention being sternum driven NOT hand driven, whoops the rabbit hole deepens….) and not create intended deviation of the attackers mind thereby altering his intent and breaking his concentration cycle.

This is where the feet come in. How can I move in relation to this line keeping my attackers target in the perceived line of the attackers intent whilst simultaneously allowing myself to avoid getting hit?

My lower sternum/ solar plexus region must remain aligned with this region of their body. Sensei calls this the heart chakra or heart to heart connection. I cannot overstate it’s importance.

The study of suigetsu is the study of this point in relation to movement in a martial context.

Without first establishing this most important of connections understanding “internals” will escape everyone.

Why is this area of the body so deeply related to Budo?

Why is it talked about by the founder as the essence or first teaching?

Why was this concept the first related by sensei when he established Yuishinkai?

Why was how to look ( have soft eyes)the second concept related by sensei and how did it relate to the first?

If the opponent is the moon and we are the water, what is the relationship between these two points?

How does this relationship allow the water to “read”(reflect) the moon?

The true study of Budo is about breaking down often long held beliefs that bind us to our “dogma”. Ignorance stifles learning. In Yuishinkai since day one sensei has encouraged beginners mind.

Beginners mind means a thirst for understanding a concept beyond the small morsels that fall from the senseis table. The onus must fall on the student to do the work. Confucius once said, “I will not bother myself with a student who, after I pick up the first corner will not lift the other three.” This is how teachings enter “the bones” and become part of the subconscious, these aren’t intellectualised philosophies, they are trained and TESTED experiences.

Free yourself to learn. Never the teacher always the student. Learn to truly be a student, to remove ignorance and self importance.

Non of these teachings were ever hidden by sensei, they were openly taught at a basic level of understanding from the very beginning in a hope that someone – anyone would be hungry enough to seek out the recipe from the taste of the crumbs that fell to the floor.

Alas the truth is most believed they already feasted at the same table as the master, and understood the ingredients in the recipe from the same perspective as him.

We are what we repeatedly do. Let’s us focus what we repeatedly do on changing ourselves to be better at being the beginner.

Ask hard questions and face hard truths. The one at fault is usually the one looking back at you in the mirror…..

Peter Kelly

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